Conference USA (19-15, 7-9)
Big Wins: 2/24 Memphis (92-75), 3/11 vs Memphis (66-65), 3/13 vs UTEP (81-73)
Bad Losses: 11/27 vs San Diego (65-72), 2/27 at SMU (83-94), 3/6 at Tulane (76-79)
Last NCAA Appearance: 1992, First Round loss to Georgia Tech
Coach: Tom Penders (12-10 in 10 NCAA appearance)
Why They Can Surprise:
Houston wins games by taking care of the ball and most of that credit goes to a trio of great starting guards. Desmond Wade runs the show and dishes out about five assists per game. Wade is not much of a scorer, but he can keep the defense honest with his outside shooting. More importantly, Wade keeps this team under control while they run up and down the floor. Kelvin Lewis does not handle the ball too often, but he does create turnovers with his stellar defense. Lewis is also a superb outside shooter and can score 20 points on any given day.
Yet, it is Aubrey Coleman who is the star of this team. Averaging nearly 26 points per game, Coleman is one of the most dynamic scorers in the nation. Not only can he knock down the long ball with consistency, but he does an amazing job using his 6-4 frame to attack the basket. Coleman gets to the free-throw line nine times per game and that is a huge number for a guard. You can bet when Houston needs a big bucket, Coleman will be taking the shot.
Why They Can Disappoint:
Coleman and Lewis are forced to do their part on the glass due to lack of other options. Maurice McNeil, Kendrick Washington and Sean Coleman have all started in the frontcourt, but this is one of the worst rebounding teams in the nation. McNeil has turned into a relatively consistent interior scorer and is easily the frontcourt’s best rebounder. Yet, he has not even been starting late in the year. That has put a lot of pressure on Washington and Sean Coleman. Washington is just a freshman and his best days are yet to come. Sean Coleman is more of a shooter than a true forward and he does not even average two rebounds per game.
Who To Watch:
As long as the Cougars create turnovers and do not turn the ball over themselves, they can overcome their awful rebounding margin and win games. It has worked all season long, or at least for four games in March. That means Coach Tom Penders’ squad needs to score in bunches if they hope to pull off another upset in the NCAA Tournament and bench players Adam Brown and Zamal Nixon will have to play a big role. Brown is the shooter off the bench and can provide a nice offensive spark. Nixon is a solid backup point guard and will spell Wade, or even join him on occasion if the team feels they need yet another ball handler on the floor.
Desmond Wade, Sophomore, Guard, 5.9 ppg, 4.9 apg
Aubrey Coleman, Senior, Guard, 25.6 ppg, 2.6 apg, 7.4 rpg
Kelvin Lewis, Senior, Guard, 15.3 ppg, 1.2 apg, 4.0 rpg
Kendrick Washington, Freshman, Forward, 4.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg
Sean Coleman, Senior, Forward, 3.9 ppg, 1.8 rpg
Adam Brown, Junior, Guard, 7.8 ppg, 2.1 rpg
Maurice McNeil, Junior, Forward, 8.3 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 1.2 bpg
Zamal Nixon, Junior, Guard, 5.8 ppg, 1.8 apg
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 78.7 (20th in nation, 2nd in conference)
Scoring Defense: 75.0 (305, 12)
Field-Goal Percentage: 41.9 (245, 10)
Field-Goal Defense: 46.1 (304, 12)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 8.2 (23, 2)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 35.3 (112, 4)
Free-Throw Percentage: 71.1 (102, 2)
Rebound Margin: -8.7 (331, 12)
Assists Per Game: 12.4 (215, 6)
Turnovers Per Game: 9.4 (2, 1)
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